Dark Passages: They All Disappear

My newest column at the Los Angeles Times has a missing persons themes running throughout, looking at new and recent books by Stewart O’Nan, Jennifer McMahon and Johan Theorin. Here’s how it opens:

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, just more than 2,000
children are reported missing every single day. The vast majority of
them are found, sometimes quickly, but for the families and loved ones
of those who are not, a canvas of unanswered questions opens up ready
to be painted with a palette of psychological complexity.

No wonder that the plight of a disappeared youngster appeals to writers
crisscrossing into and out of genre: When a crime novel focuses on
murder, the expectation is that this chaotic event will be put right
with the identity of the culprit. But disappearance suggests a more
elastic narrative that takes in a wide spectrum of emotions of those

In other words, a missing-person tale carries the weight of a dissonant
chord perpetually unresolved but, as some of the most indelible novels
of the last few years demonstrate, also presents a wide swath of color
and tone rife for exploration from an array of vantage points.

  Read on for the rest.